Cincinnati Bengals: 30 greatest players in franchise history

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. S/PR. (1972-77). Tommy Casanova. 24. player. 56

  • 3x Pro Bowl (1974, 1976-77)
  • 1x First-Team All-Pro (1976)
  • 17 career interceptions for 276 yards and two touchdowns
  • 91 career punt returns for 784 yards and a touchdown

The Bengals knew exactly the type of player they were getting when they took three-time All-American safety/punt returner Tommy Casanova in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft. Casanova was otherworldly playing for the Bayou Bengals down in LSU. It was only fitting that he would play his professional for the NFL’s Bengals.

Yes, Casanova was one of the finest players to ever grace the Tiger Stadium gridiron down in Baton Rouge. Think of him as a prototype for the Honey Badger Tyrann Mathieu. Just get the ball in his hands and he’ll find a way to make a play.

Casanova might have only played in the NFL for six seasons, but he surely made the most of them. He was named to the Pro Bowl on three separate occasions. His best season as a professional came in 1976 when he was named to the All-Pro first team. In 11 games for the 1976 Bengals, Casanova found pay dirt three times on defense, twice on interceptions and once on a fumble recovery.

While he only managed 71 career games in the NFL over six seasons, Casanova was a playmaker if there ever was one in two of the game’s three phases. He had 17 career interceptions for 276 yards and two touchdowns. As a punt returner, Casanova managed 784 yards on 91 punt returns for a touchdown.

But Casanova had bigger plans beyond the NFL gridiron. This ultimately led him to having just a six-year professional career. While he was playing for the Bengals, Casanova was beginning his M.D. at the University of Cincinnati.

He retired after the 1977 at age 27 to embrace medicine full-time. Keep in mind he still made the Pro Bowl in his final professional season. In the late 1990s, Casanova would transition to politics, where he would serve in his native Louisiana’s State Senate for one term.

Overall, had Casanova played longer, he’d certainly be higher up on the list. Though he may have never been a Pro Football Hall of Fame player, he is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame after his brilliant career at LSU. Perhaps the best way to summarize Casanova’s playing style was making the most of his snaps and doing big things when he had the ball in his hands in a non-offensive role.